Eye on Extremism: September 3, 2021

The Washington Post: ISIS Militant Admits Involvement In Torture, Killings Of American Hostages

“Seven years after the Islamic State horrified people around the world by beheading hostages and using their deaths in propaganda videos, one former member has admitted to his involvement in the killings of four Americans. Alexanda A. Kotey, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Alexandria to playing a role in the kidnappings and deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. The three men were beheaded on camera in videos posted online. The circumstances of Mueller’s death remain unclear. All four traveled to Syria, their friends and family have said, out of an intense desire to help — either by reporting on the war there or giving aid to those displaced by the conflict. Kotey’s plea marks the first time a member of the Islamic State has been held accountable in a U.S. court for those killings. He faces a mandatory life sentence. In exchange for his admission of guilt and promised cooperation, prosecutors agreed that after Kotey serves 15 years in a U.S. prison, he may seek to serve the rest of his sentence in the United Kingdom, where he was born. If that happens, Kotey also agreed he would plead guilty in a United Kingdom prosecution and face a life sentence there, and be returned to the United States if released by the U.K.”

CNN: Heavy Clashes Erupt Between Taliban And Anti-Taliban Group In Afghanistan's Panjshir Province

“Heavy clashes erupted Thursday night around Afghanistan's northern Panjshir Valley between Taliban fighters and an anti-Taliban group, according to a source within the group. Panjshir Valley, a mountainous, inaccessible region north of Kabul, is the last major holdout against Taliban rule, and has a long history of resisting the insurgent group. Sporadic fighting between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front (NRF) has continued for two weeks now. The Taliban have been massing forces in and around Panjshir province in recent weeks, and said on Monday they had captured three districts in the valley. The overnight clashes between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) started late Thursday, and were very intense, said the NRF source. “They (Taliban) are using their last power to get in, but clashes are still ongoing,” the source added. Earlier on Thursday, Fahim Dashti, an NRF spokesperson, said in an audio message that the Taliban lost 40 of their forces in their ongoing attempts to enter Panjshir. Ali Nazary, another spokesperson from the group, said Thursday that the Taliban had also lost a number of heavy equipment and weaponry that had been destroyed. CNN has not independently verified the Taliban casualties.”

United States

The Detroit News: FBI Agent In Whitmer Kidnap Case Arrested Following Domestic Incident

“The arrest of an FBI agent credited with helping thwart a plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer complicates one of the most closely watched cases of violent extremism that is becoming increasingly focused on allegations of wrongdoing by investigators. FBI Special Agent Richard Trask, 39, of Kalamazoo, was charged Monday with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, less than murder following a domestic incident with his wife Sunday. He was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond following an arraignment in 8th District Court in Kalamazoo and faces a charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison. His arrest comes at a critical juncture in the criminal case against five men charged in federal court with plotting to kidnap Whitmer. Defense lawyers last week leveled a broad attack on the foundation of the high-profile case and suggested a second FBI agent was trying to sabotage defense teams. Trask, 39, has worked for the FBI since 2011 and served as the FBI's public face in the Whitmer case, testifying in federal court about the investigation. He has worked on cases involving espionage, terrorism and domestic extremism investigations.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Forces Conduct Anti-ISIS Operation As Terrorist Attacks Continue Ahead Of Election

“The Iraqi military has conducted an operation to target suspected ISIS members in rural Nineveh province amid a growing number of terrorist attacks ahead of the national parliamentary elections planned for October 10. The US-led coalition against ISIS supported the latest Iraqi military campaign, local media cited security sources as saying. A joint force from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and the army struck the Atshan Mountains, about 20 kilometers west of Mosul, backed by coalition air support. The source explained that the operation led to multiple ISIS casualties, though the numbers were not immediately apparent, and the destruction of terrorist cell's hideout. The campaign came amid a growing number of reported attacks by members of the terrorist organization, which the Iraqi government declared in late 2017 territorially defeated. Early Thursday, close to 30 suspected ISIS fighters killed at least one Iraqi soldier and kidnapped a civilian in an attack on a village in the disputed Kirkuk province countryside, one local source told Kurdistan 24. Following its territorial defeat in 2017 at the hands of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, ISIS remnants regularly launch attacks in territories disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government due to what Kurdish officials have described as a “security vacuum.”

Afghanistan

Fox News: White House Says There Are 'Active' ISIS Threats In Afghanistan, As 'Closer To 100' Americans Remain

“The White House said Thursday that there continue to be “active” threats from ISIS-K in Afghanistan, and that officials are in “close touch” with the roughly 100 American citizens remaining in the country following the U.S. military withdrawal. During a press briefing Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said that the number of Americans still in Afghanistan following the full U.S. troop withdrawal on Monday is “closer to 100.” “We are in close touch with the State Department, our diplomatic officials, with all of these individuals and are working in close coordination to discuss how they can leave the country, and if they can leave the country,” Psaki said.  Psaki, touching on reports of potential charter flights to aid those Americans, said that the United States does not have personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, and confirmed that the U.S. “does not control air space.”  “There are active, continue to be active, ISIS-K threats,” Psaki said, adding that there is “concern” about these potential charter flights and “where these flights go,” as ISIS has a “keen interest” in aviation targets. President Biden acknowledged this week that there are Americans who have been left behind, but claimed that his administration has been warning those individuals “as far back as March.”

The Hill: Afghanistan Is Set To Become A Sanctuary For Extremists

“Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have trumpeted assurances their administrations received from the Taliban that al Qaeda and ISIS will not attack America from Afghanistan. But the Taliban’s ideological beliefs align it closely with Salafi-jihadi groups that use violence to advance their aim of enforcing a fundamentalist understanding of Islam. These beliefs led the Taliban to protect Osama bin Laden in 2001 — though the group may have officially disagreed with his actions — and to defy the United States after the 9/11 attacks.  Twenty years later, the Taliban is savvier, but the core beliefs of its members remain the same. The danger of these Salafi-jihadi beliefs is that they do not stop at Afghanistan’s borders. The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate is not the end of the project; rather, it is the start. The vision always has been global, and the Taliban has played host willingly to those seeking to replicate the Islamic Emirate’s success elsewhere in the Muslim world. Thousands of foreign fighters are in Afghanistan, drawn to the decades-old Salafi-jihadi sanctuary. A complex network of alliances, partnerships and competitors runs through the country, a network the Taliban can influence but cannot control.”

Yemen

Associated Press: Fighting In Yemen's Central Province Kills 28 In One Day

“Fighting has flared up between Yemen's pro-government forces and Houthi rebels in the oil-rich government stronghold of Marib province, with at least 28 fighters killed over the last 24 hours, security officials from both sides and tribal leaders said on Thursday. Most of the fatalities were among the Iran-backed rebels assaulting the city of Rahbah, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. The rebels have accelerated their push to take Marib in recent months, while escalating cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia, which leads the military coalition opposing them. Thousands of fighters — mostly Houthis — have died in the offensive, with 12 government troops killed on Monday. Since then, fighting has intensified in Rahbah, which had been under Houthi control for almost two years before falling to government troops in July. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has launched dozens of airstrikes on cities in Marib — including Rahbah, Sirwah and Madghel — to back pro-government ground forces, according to the Houthi media center. Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Houthis seized Sanaa and much of the north, forcing the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Almost 6,000 Boko Haram Fighters Have Surrendered, Nigerian Army Says

“Close to 6,000 fighters from the Boko Haram Islamist insurgent group in northeast Nigeria have surrendered in recent weeks, the Nigerian armed forces said on Thursday, attributing the development to the military's counter-insurgency efforts. Some 350,000 people have died in the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian army since it began 12 years ago, according to a United Nations estimate, and the fighting has spilled over to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. “Within the last few weeks, more than 5,890 terrorists comprising foot soldiers and their commanders have surrendered with their families to own troops in the North East Zone,” said Brigadier General Bernard Onyeuko, spokesman for the armed forces. He said 565 of the surrendered fighters had been handed over to the government of northeastern Borno State for “further management after thorough profiling”, but gave no further details. Boko Haram, which acquired global notoriety with the mass kidnapping of schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014, has been in a state of flux due to a conflict with a splinter group-turned-rival, the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP).”

Somalia

Voice Of America: Somali Security Agency Blames Employee’s Disappearance On Al-Shabab

“Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency said Thursday that the terrorist group al-Shabab had killed a female employee who was abducted in Mogadishu in June. But close family members questioned the claim. Ikran Tahlil Farah, 24, worked with the agency’s cybersecurity department. She was abducted June 26 near her home in Mogadishu’s Abdulaziz district, which is close to NISA headquarters. The agency posted a brief statement on its website Thursday saying its investigation had determined that the young woman’s kidnappers handed her over to al-Shabab militants, who later killed her. The agency did not release details about when or where it believed Ikran was killed. Al-Shabab has not publicly acknowledged any role in Ikran’s disappearance. The Islamist extremist group previously has publicly executed people it accused of spying for the Somali government and for Western countries, including the United States. The security agency issued its statement several hours after VOA’s Somali Service aired a radio program that focused on Ikran’s disappearance. Colonel Abdullahi Ali Maow, a former Somali intelligence official who was a guest on the program, speculated that the Islamist terrorist group was involved in Ikran’s fate.”

Africa

Reuters: Tanzania Says Gunman Who Killed Four People Last Month Was A Terrorist

“Tanzanian police said on Thursday that a slain gunman who killed three police officers and a private security guard on a rampage through a diplomatic quarter of Tanzania's main city Dar es Salaam last month was a terrorist. In the Aug. 25 attack, Hamza Mohammed shot police officers with a pistol at a city intersection before taking their rifles and heading to the nearby French embassy where he shot the security guard. Hamza was eventually shot dead. “Our investigation has found that Hamza was a terrorist,” Camilius Wambura, Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI), told reporters in the lake city of Mwanza. The gunman had been accessing extremist content from social media pages depicting terror acts by Islamist groups al Shabaab and ISIS, Wambura said. Al Shabaab is an Islamist group that has for years been fighting to topple the government in Somalia and seeking to establish its own rule based on its own strict interpretation of Islam's sharia law. The gunman was also in communication “with other people who live in countries with terrorism-related acts but mainly he was learning through radical social media pages,” Wambura said.”

Financial Times: Africa Has Quietly Become The Epicentre Of The Islamist Threat

“Just as Kabul was about to fall this month, Iyad ag Ghaly, the grizzled Malian leader of al-Qaeda affiliate Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, took to the airwaves. Congratulating the Taliban on the imminent expulsion of foreign infidels, he foresaw victory too in the Sahel, a vast stretch of semi-arid land that fringes the Sahara desert. Here, a mishmash of armed groups loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State have carried out increasingly frequent and deadly attacks on military and civilian targets in an expanding arc from Mali to Burkina Faso and Niger. Other Islamist groups, including Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province, are active in Nigeria and Chad. Ag Ghaly, who in 2012 helped impose sharia law in the ancient city of Timbuktu after militants took over a France-sized slab of northern Mali, celebrated President Emmanuel Macron’s decision this July to halve its troop presence in the region. “We are winning,” he said. Thankfully, France’s drawdown is not yet a US-style surrender. Its version of mission creep began in 2013 when France’s Operation Serval was instrumental in ending Islamist control of northern Mali. Paris’s changing strategy stems from a sensible verdict that the current one is not working.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: Attorney General Asked To Review Sentence Of Neo-Nazi Terror Offender Told To Read Literature

“The attorney general has been asked to consider whether a neo-Nazi student was given an “unduly lenient” sentence for a terror offence. Ben John was handed a suspended prison sentence for possessing a terrorist document, meaning he will not be jailed unless he breaks the conditions imposed by the court. Judge Timothy Spencer QC ordered the 21-year-old to exchange extreme right-wing material for literary classics at a sentencing hearing on Tuesday. “Have you read Dickens? Austen? Start with Pride and Prejudice and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Think about Hardy. Think about Trollope,” the judge was reported to have said. “On 4 January you will tell me what you have read and I will test you on it. I will test you and if I think you are [lying to] me you will suffer.” Reports of the sentencing sparked fierce debate, and comparisons with sentences given to other young people for the same offence. The counter-extremist organisation Hope Not Hate sent a letter to the attorney general on Wednesday calling for a review under the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme.”

New Zealand

The Washington Post: ISIS-Inspired Extremist Killed After Stabbing Six In New Zealand ‘Terrorist Attack,’ Authorities Say

A knife-wielding extremist injured six people, several of them critically, at an Auckland, New Zealand grocery store on Friday before being shot dead by police, in what authorities are describing as an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack. The Sri Lankan national was a known security threat and under “constant” police surveillance at the time of the attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters. Law enforcement officials had followed the man to the supermarket and were trailing him when he grabbed a knife from the shelves and began attacking customers. He was shot and killed by police “within the space of roughly 60 seconds of the attack starting,” Ardern said.

Latin America

Kharon: Paraguay Arrests Man In Tri-Border Region, As U.S. Sanctions Him And His Network For Corruption

“…Hizballah raises about USD 200 million per year through the TBA and at times has transferred funds using Paraguayan financial institutions, according to the Counter Extremism Project, a research and advocacy group.   A Paraguayan intelligence document cited in a 2009 RAND Corporation report had said Hijazi, identified as the biggest money launderer in the TBA, remitted USD 32 million per month to Iquique, Chile. The figure represented four-fifths of the money transfers going from the TBA to a Chilean free-trade zone. Hijazi’s clients’ funds were said to come from “an array of illegal activities” and he had allegedly laundered money “through an impressive variety of schemes,” according to the RAND report. In an example cited by the Treasury, Hijazi used a firm called Espana Informatica S.A. to coordinate with U.S. and China-based suppliers to import electronic equipment to Paraguay. He had worked with a company based in Florida for shipments, for which he altered invoices and submitted them to a Paraguayan bank for a wire-transfer payment back to the U.S. firm, according to the Treasury. The altered invoices reduced the value of the goods to avoid taxes and enabled Hijazi to launder the profits, the Treasury said.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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